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The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange started the week yesterday in light trade as many market players waited for world bourses to lead the way today, but toward the end of the day investors sent the main indexes down sharply. Turnover totaled less than a billion shekels.

The TA-25 lost 1.2 percent to close at 940.9 points, and is now 6 percent below the 1,000 mark, which it crossed for the first time - and for one day only - in mid-February. Only two of the top 25 stocks were in the green for the day: Teva (TASE: TEVA), which started with a positive arbitrage gap, and Delek Group (TASE: DLKG), which had three major announcements yesterday.

The TA-100 also fell 1.2 percent to close at 944.7 points, and the TelTech-15 dropped 1.7 percent, down a full 3 percent in the last two trading days. Second-tier stocks lost 1.4 percent, while third-tier stocks of the Yeter-30 eased 0.55 percent.

The U.S. mortgage crisis is hanging over markets this week, as are local factors such as a possible strike on Wednesday by 700,000 public sector employees. The labor problems at the Bank of Israel also weighed on the markets.

Teva was the only dual-traded share to gain, up 0.3 percent on NIS 39 million in turnover, on a report in the Indian newspaper The Economic Times that the company had made it to the second round of the bidding for the generic division of Germany's Merck.

Nice (TASE: NICE) fell 0.7 percent and Elbit Systems (TASE: ESLT) shed 1.5 percent.

Audiocodes (TASE: AUDC) dropped 2.6 percent after opening the day with a 3.7 percent negative arbitrage gap. The share lost 25 percent of its value on Thursday in Tel Aviv, and as it represents 6 percent of the TelTech-15, it dragged that index down by 1.3 percent.

The reporting season for 2006 annual results is well underway and will continue to the end of the month. The banks are expected to report this week, as well as Strauss-Elite (TASE: STEL).

Bank Hapoalim (TASE: POLI) fell 1.1 percent on the largest turnover of the day, NIS 52 million, in anticipation of its results expected on Wednesday. Bank Leumi (TASE: LUMI) dropped 1.6 percent, while First International Bank (TASE: FTIN) lost 1.05 percent in the run-up to its results on Tuesday.

The members of Nochi Dankner's IDB group were all down sharply, with Discount Investments (TASE: DISI) off 2.2 percent.